Promoting Mindfulness

mindfulnessI woke this morning for a third time, having gone back to sleep when the alarm rang (twice- it’s a holiday), then later taking a nap (third time). Feeling refreshed, I sat down to take care of the business end of Firehouse Zen: answering e-mails, checking the Twitter feed, etc.  I also decided a “first post” for 2015 was in order, so I continued to peck away on the keyboard. 2014 was an interesting year and there were good moments, and there were not so good moments.  But regardless, we have to treasure those times when we experience joy and pleasure, and take the negative moments and create learning and opportunities.  If we fail to take the time to reflect, we simply move from one moment to the next like in a karmic pinball machine, bouncing off bumpers and being deflected by flippers, with no path or control of our lives.

As officers, and thus, leaders, we have to seek understanding of everything that happens around us and place those events in perspective.  No matter how big or small, every interaction we have with another creates another action.  What might have begun as a quest toward a goalpoint can get easily sidetracked. Moments like these require us to stop, walk away from the picture, see what it was we were targeting, and refocus. Consider a sculptor; from time to time we must to confirm that we are actually chiseling what we want to be chiseling. By continuing to hack away at a stone without stepping back, we don’t know if we are being efficient, or if we are destroying work, or if we just happen to be way off track.

Reaffirming our path at certain intervals requires more mindfulness than we tend to exhibit daily.  Sometimes what began as a move toward a destination put us at a waypoint far from where we intended. Before making radical changes, we should take our time and really see where we need to correct things.  As I put together a small garden for my living room today, I considered where I was putting the sand. Pouring the sand rapidly, the job might get done quicker.  That didn’t translate, however, into the result. Sand got all over the wall edge and spilled into areas where I didn’t want sand.  When I took my time and paid attention to where I placed the elements, the process became smooth and the result, a thing of simplicity and beauty.

Our work requires the same mindfulness.  You have heard, and I have referred to before, the oft quoted: “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast”.  When we do any job, we have to be mindful of details so it goes right the first time.  We may not have a second chance to make the effort, or the half-fulfilled effort could cost us dearly.  Speed will increase with practice, but in cases where we are doing something for the first time, we need to work through the issues while stepping back and re-appraising from time to time.

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